College Money

4 Steps to Getting More Financial Aid Money

If you’re the parent of a high school senior, I’m betting that you’re a bundle of nerves right about now. Not only are you anxiously awaiting college acceptance letters, but also trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for everything. Although the economy is starting to show improvement, many of you are still recovering from several years of meager wages or loss of savings, which means you are probably counting on colleges to be very generous with their financial aid offers. In fact, how much or how little a college is willing to give you may ultimately decide where your child will be attending college this fall. Unfortunately, you may not realize that there are some steps you can take that will help increase your chances of getting the most financial aid possible. If you are concerned about how you are going to pay for your child’s education, consider following these four steps.

1. Move the Money Around

Before you start the financial aid process, consider moving money from your child’s assets into your personal accounts. Why? On the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as FAFSA, your child’s personal assets are assessed at a higher rate than yours. The federal government assumes your child can use up to 20 percent of his/her savings to help pay for college, but your money will only be assessed at 5.64 percent. Parents’ assets are also protected to a certain extent, but your dependent child would have no protection. Funds you may want to consider transferring include savings bonds, certificates of deposit, savings and checking accounts. Consult with a financial specialist or tax adviser to determine which changes would be best for your family.

FAFSA2. Complete the FAFSA

The sooner you complete the 2014-2015 FAFSA, the better. Every state and college has its own deadline for submitting the form (the federal deadline is June 30, 2015), but don’t wait until the last minute to complete it. Some colleges and states award financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so once the money is gone – that’s it. Even if you believe you make too much money to qualify for any federal grants, submit the form, as this is the key to getting institutional financial aid, as well. Even some private scholarship programs require students to submit the FAFSA in order to be considered for their awards. The FAFSA will also give your student access to low-rate federal student loans, should he or she need them. Be sure to review the form for accuracy and check out my helpful guide to avoiding common mistakes, as a simple error could significantly delay your child’s financial aid.

3. Submit All College Financial Aid Applications

It’s a common misconception that the FAFSA will give you access to all available college scholarships and grants. Although colleges use the information from the FAFSA to determine how much aid they will offer, you’ll need to complete the appropriate college financial aid forms, as well. Some schools may require you to complete the CSS / Financial Aid PROFILE® (non-federal financial aid form), in order to receive institutional scholarships and grants. Your child may also be eligible for other institutional aid that is given through the college’s foundation, alumni group, or specific departments. These programs may also require separate scholarship applications and materials. Be aware of deadlines for these programs, as many are in the early spring between January and March. You can typically search for available scholarships on the college’s financial aid website, but don’t hesitate to ask the Financial Aid Office about other opportunities to ensure you aren’t leaving any money on the table.

Ask fo More4. Appeal the Award Offer

Although the FAFSA allows colleges to get an understanding of what your family might be able to afford for college, it doesn’t always reflect the whole picture. For example, a recent loss of employment or change in hours could change your financial outlook for the upcoming year, but the college’s financial aid office won’t know about this unless you provide them with that information. If you’ve recently been hospitalized or had other events that may have drained your savings since filing the FAFSA, you’ll want to let the college know about those changes, too. The financial aid office can reconsider your award package, if you go through the appropriate steps and file an appeal before the deadline. You’ll need to contact the office directly and download any forms that need to be completed. Be prepared to submit documentation to support any claims you make, and spell out exactly what additional funding you will need and why.

Some parents may want to ask the financial aid department at one college to match another college’s financial aid package, but that can be a slippery slope. If you do decide to present other offers in an effort to increase your child’s aid package, avoid using the words ‘bargain’ or ‘negotiation’ as they tend to have a negative connotation. Instead, ask the financial aid officer to consider additional funding based on your child’s desire to enroll or his/her continued academic success over the last few months; most will do everything within their power to ensure your child receives as much aid as possible. The only guaranteed way NOT to receive any additional money is NOT to ask for it. In the meantime, while you are waiting for colleges to present their offers, encourage your child to continue applying for scholarships. Every little bit helps!

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About

Tamara is the Social Media Coordinator and a regular writer for ScholarshipExperts.com, eStudentLoan.com and CampusDiscovery.com. She enjoys helping students prepare for college. As a mother of four, Tamara has first-hand experience with many areas of education, including special needs (autism), the International Baccalaureate program and post-secondary education. She enjoys speaking at schools and mentoring others online. In her free time, Tamara enjoys volunteering and supporting her favorite football team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
20 Responses to “4 Steps to Getting More Financial Aid Money”
  1. Susie Watts says:

    Great article with good information on the FAFSA. Too many families find the whole financial process too complicated to even bother to apply.

    http://www.collegedirection.org

  2. kelvin bass says:

    Such informations are quite helpful. Nice one on FAFSA!

  3. joan says:

    If the childs savings is moved how long must it be in the parents account?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      If you plan to place the savings in your account, do it from the start or at least a few years prior to high school graduation. It will raise red flags if a substantial amount is moved within the last year of school.

  4. Dai Lay says:

    I am planning to move to another state on June after graduate in HS. I want to apply for FAFSA application for the college where i will be moving to. I heard some people said that if you plan to move another state you have to wait for another year to apply FAFSA. I don’t want to wait for one long year. IS THAT CORRECT?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      No, that is not correct. You can file the FAFSA regardless of where you are living. If you are moving to establish residency, however, you may be wasting your time because colleges determine your in-state or out-of-state status based on where your parents live, not you. You would have to meet the qualifications of an independent student to have your residency trump your parents.

  5. David says:

    Wanting to go to an aviation mechanic school. Applied for FAFSA, they said with tax returns for 2013, 2012 made to much. Is not true now for 2014. I have now a 50 percent cut in pay.
    How do I write to FAFSA to appeal? Or can I.

    Thanks

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi David. Your 2014-2015 FAFSA is based on your 2013 income, not your current income. Although you cannot ‘appeal’ your FAFSA, you can speak with the financial aid department at your college and explain the changes in your employment/income. They have the ability to adjust the amount of need-based aid provided to you. You’ll need to provide documentation to show your income status has changed and is expected to remain the same for the upcoming school year, but ultimately it’s up to the school to increase your aid or not.

  6. Jyrell says:

    My husband lost his job the first April and now they didn’t give my child Pell Grant. What do I needed to do or do I needed to call financial department at school? Please let me know. I’m try to find money from some where but I don’t know what to do. Please help and thank you.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Please contact your financial aid department and alert them to the change in your financial situation. They may be able to recalculate your child’s adi package for the upcoming year.

  7. Amy says:

    Is it true that students whose parents have college degrees receive less aid than students with non college educated parents?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Amy. Your college financial aid is based on income, not your parent’s level of education, but people with a college education tend to earn more than those w/o a degree. So, students with parents who do not have a college education may find themselves in a lower income bracket and eligible for more financial assistance than students whose parents have an advanced degree and a larger income.

  8. Via Conlon says:

    Does my having a 401(K) account, brokerage account, stock holdings, etc.. mean less or no financial aid for my high school senior?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Although pensions, annuities and the cash value of a life insurance policy – known as a whole-life policy – is not reported as an asset on the FAFSA, any other taxable and non-taxable income must be reported. This includes interest and dividends, Social Security, child support, workers compensation/disability income and other assets held by you. In general, a family of four must make less than $29,000 to qualify for any Pell Grant aid. Even if your income is much higher than this threshold, it’s important to complete the FAFSA, as most colleges require it in order for students to receive any institutional aid, including merit-based scholarships. It’s also to only way to access federal student loans, which have lower interest rates and offer more flexible repayment options.

  9. Kimberly says:

    I am a single parent making roughly 40k a year and seeking as much financial aid as possible. My child was receiving child support at the time we completed the FAFSA, however since the completion of the FAFSA my child has turned 18 and no longer receives support. We were hoping to qualify for a Pell Grant but unfortunately we didn’t. Is the child support causing the disqualification and if so can we make changes to FAFSA in hopes of now qualifying or will those changes only ‘possibly’ benefit us next year?

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi, Kimberly. Is this the 2014-2015 FAFSA? If so, then the income loss that happened in 2014 would not change anything on the FAFSA, but could possibly help you for next year. Even with the loss in child support, your income may prevent you for receiving a Pell Grant. The typical family income is under $30,000 for a family of four. In the meantime, I encourage you to contact the college financial aid office and alert them to this change in your financial situation, as they do have the power to increase your aid. Be prepared to bring along documentation to show the change in income, as well as other financial paperwork (pay stubs, tax forms, etc.) to support your request for reconsideration.

  10. Cristine Crispin says:

    Hi Kimberly, I recently received the total amount of money I received from my FASFA. The amount isn’t going to be able to cover enough of my school tuition. Is there any ways I can talk to someone to request more money for my FASFA. I won’t be able to attend my College without it, thank you.

    • Tamara Krause says:

      Hi Christine,

      You would not contact FAFSA in this case. Your college determines how much financial aid you receive based on information from the FAFSA. I encourage you to contact your financial aid office and discuss your situation with them. If there has been a change in income since filing the form, they may be able to increase your financial aid package. If the financial aid offered still doesn’t cover the majority of your expenses, you may want to consider attending another college with lower tuition rates.

  11. Christine says:

    Hello. I am looking for any information on receiving assistance with secondary education. I would like to attend a “private” for lack of a better word massage school that does not deal with grants. They advised me that they can pick and choose their students and do not have to except certain people. I am a single mother of two and I make under $35,000. Any information would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

    • Tamara Krause says:

      If you choose a school that does not receive federal funding, you’ll find your opportunities for financial aid are very limited. I would encourage you to look into programs at your local community college, as you may qualify for federal assistance and have access to low-interest federal loans, which have more flexible repayment terms than private loans. Most private scholarship programs will also require you to attend an accredited college or university, so be sure any school you choose falls within this category. If it doesn’t, you’re pretty much on your own to cover the costs.

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